Aaron Rodgers has played at a high level in so many games during his career but the future Hall of Famer may have had his best performance in a big game situation during the Green Bay Packers 48-21 upset win over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs.
Rodgers could do no wrong in this game. He completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns while running for another score. He had 300 yards passing at the start of the fourth quarter and coasted the rest of the way.
“This just feels so good right now,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “This probably was my best performance — the stage we were on, the importance of this game. It was a good night. It was one of those nights. I felt like I was in the zone.”
The game didn’t start well for the Packers. On their first drive, wide receiver Greg Jennings fumbled near midfield and the Falcons recovered. Seven plays later, running back Michael Turner ran seven yards for a touchdown and the Packers trailed 7-0.
Rodgers responded with a 13-play, 81-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. He mixed runs and passes and completed 8-of-9 on the drive which climaxed on a six-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson which tied the game 7-7.
The Falcons regained the lead one player later when Eric Weems returned Mason Crosby’s kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. The Packers trailed 14-7 early in the second quarter.
“It happened so fast,” Crosby said. “We were going deep right, and we needed to get a little wider kick. I thought I had good hang time on it, but he just found a seam and hit it. He did a good job; put a move on me. I didn’t make the play, and he was out.”
But the Packers answered back, scoring on their next two drives before the half. Rodgers led a 10-play, 92-yard march that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by fullback John Kuhn that tied the game at 14-14 with 6:06 left in the half. Kuhn followed nose tackle B.J. Raji who lined up at fullback on the play.
“Coach [Mike] McCarthy came to me late in the week and told me we had a package set for me,” Raji said. “He just told me, move when the ball is snapped, hit the hole right off the tackle’s hip and just [make] a hole for Kuhn, and that’s what I did.”
Matt Ryan drove the Falcons to the Packers 26. He threw for Michael Jenkins in the end zone but cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted and gave Green Bay back the ball at their own 20 with 2:20 left in the half. Rodgers led executed the two minute drill effectively hitting Jennings and Donald Driver for 20 yard passes before finding James Jones in the end zone with 48 seconds left to give the Packers a 21-14 lead.
The Falcons tried to tie the game before the half, knowing the Packers would receive the second-half kickoff. Ryan for them to the Green Bay 35 with 10 seconds left in the half before calling his final timeout.
Ryan looked for Roddy White in the flat to try to reach field goal range but Tramon Williams stepped in front of the pass and raced 70 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. The Packers led 28-14 and the momentum of the game ad turned completely. The Packers were in control and the Georgia Dome was completely quiet except for the Packers fans in attendance.
“I recognized the formation,” Williams said. “I knew they were trying to get into position for a field goal.”
The Packers continued their assault on the Falcons by driving 80 yards on their first drive of the second half. Rodgers capped the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to make it 35-14.
After a Falcons punt, Rodgers put together his fifth straight touchdown drive which ended on his third and final touchdown pass of the game, a seven-yard toss to Kuhn.
If it wasn’t for a missed field goal by Crosby (who made two more in the fourth quarter), the Packers would have scored points on eight consecutive drives. As it was, the Pack coasted to a 48-21 win.
Jennings led Packers receivers with eight catches for 101 yards while Nelson caught eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown and Driver caught six for 76 more.
On defense, the Packers recorded five sacks of Ryan including two by Clay Matthews and one each by Charles Woodson, C.J. Wilson and Raji. Williams picked off two passes including the pick six that changed the momentum of the game.
The Packers didn’t punt all evening and outgained the Falcons 442-194 while holding the ball for 38:19 to just 21:41 for Atlanta.
After the game, the praise rolled in for Rodgers. “Oh, my gosh, the guy is a phenomenal quarterback,” Jennings told reporters. “He played lights out today. He played absolutely lights out.”
“He was excellent today,” McCarthy said. “He was on fire. He likes to play in domes. You can see why.”
The win sent the Packers to the NFC Championship Game the following week against the Bears in Chicago.
“I feel like we’re a team of destiny,” Raji said after the game. It turned out he was right as the Packers beat the Bears and then the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV.
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